The 2014 Preakness Stakes is finally here after two weeks of intense scrutiny in the horse-racing world following California Chrome's stirring victory at the Kentucky Derby this year.
This is the 139th edition of the Preakness, and a small lineup of just 10 horses should provide onlookers with an exciting two minutes or less of furious action at the Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore.
All eyes will be trained on California Chrome, the $10,000 colt who has brought co-owners Steve Coburn and Perry Martin unprecedented fame and fortune. Nine other horses will look to upset this gallant horse, but they will find it to be quite tough on the shortest leg of the Triple Crown series.
Here are the post positions, odds and my predictions for Saturday's Run for the Black-Eyed Susans.
|2||General a Rod||15-1||8|
|9||Pablo Del Monte||20-1||7|
|10||Ride On Curlin||10-1||3|
How the Race Will Play Out
Friday's heavy rain in Baltimore created a whole new set of talking points for the Preakness. A possibly muddy track would change the predictions for some horses, but rain or shine, California Chrome is destined for first place. According to Los Alamitos Race Track announcer Ed Burgart, this colt has seen wet tracks before and raced fine:
For what it is worth, one of California Chrome's Los Al works earlier this year came over a wet oval. He handled it like a champ.— Ed Burgart (@qheddie) May 16, 2014
California Chrome won't be a wire-to-wire finisher and must be careful not to get pinned inside at the No. 3 post. It's an unlikely obstacle considering the horse's power and familiarity with jockey Victor Espinoza, but it's a situation to be avoided as he looks to make a charge just like he did in the Derby and pull out a victory.
Social Inclusion is the biggest threat to California Chrome but will come up just short. Social Inclusion never raced as a two-year-old and is going to be in great shape for the Preakness, and two wins in three career starts tip this horse as a potential phenom. Jockey Luis Contreras felt his mount was flying around the track, as per Daily Racing Form's Marcus Hersh:
Social Inclusion jock Contreras said mount felt 'very light' working over PIM surface. 'He felt like he was flying.' #preakness— Marcus Hersh (@DRFHersh) May 12, 2014
Trainer Manny Azpurua believes this is the special horse he's been waiting for, as per Tom Pedulla of the The New York Times: “I was waiting for a big horse,” he said. “I’ve been lucky because I had a lot of good horses. But I really believe this is a special one.”
He's special horse indeed but one who will top out with a second-place finish after a final push from California Chrome.
A start on the fringes shouldn't be too much trouble for Ride On Curlin this time out. He was able to make a move for seventh place from the No. 19 post at the Kentucky Derby and should find similar success galloping toward the inside of the track from the No. 10 post at Pimlico.
Exercise rider Bryan Beccia praised the way Ride On Curlin handled the track at Pimlico in practice runs, as per Alicia Wincze Hughes of the Lexington Herald-Leader: "He was just in a high gallop, I never moved on him. I was scared to move on him because if I did he would have kicked into another gear. He's handling the track real well, real fluid.
The surprise finisher will be Ria Antonia, who is primed for a fourth-place finish or better despite the longest odds at 30-1 heading into the race. She's the only filly in the race and will ride out of the favorable No. 6 post, which has produced more Preakness winners than any other position.
Jockey Calvin Borel doesn't see the field as much of an impediment to success, save for California Chrome:
Ria Antonia jock Borel: "There are no outstanding horses other than California Chrome. If we can find a hole, we’ve got a shot.”— KY Derby Contenders (@DerbyContenders) May 14, 2014
In fifth place and racing out of the No. 5 post will be Bayern, who is named for the famous soccer club Bayern Munich and trained by the legendary Bob Baffert.
Bayern will be making a change from previous events and racing without blinkers on, according to Baffert, via Daily Racing Form's Jay Privman. Unfortunately, the lack of blinkers will only allow Bayern to see four other horses cross the finish line before him.
Dynamic Impact, Pablo Del Monte, General a Rod, Ring Weekend and Kid Cruz will all miss out on money finishes.
Dynamic Impact and General a Rod will have a tough go from the No. 1 and No. 2 posts, respectively. Daily Racing Form's Twitter account pointed out the ongoing futility of those two positions:
Ring Weekend is one of the only Grade 1 race winners in this lineup, but a victory at the Tampa Bay Derby won't translate to a strong showing at Pimlico.
Pablo Del Monte and Kid Cruz will finish as just another couple of thoroughbred also-rans.
If California Chrome should finish anywhere other than first place in the Preakness, it would prove to be an unbelievable upset considering his 3-5 odds. However, the Belmont Stakes would still be an exciting and wide-open contest. The longest course in the Triple Crown series, it should provide a challenge to speedsters like Social Inclusion and Bayern.
The return of some of the better finishers from the Kentucky Derby, such as Commanding Curve, Wicked Strong and Danza, could make the field unbelievably competitive and provide fans with a fantastic finish to the Triple Crown series, even if there isn't a chance for California Chrome to make history.
Odds updated as of May 15.